By Caitlin Kelly
Loved this, from The New York Times dance critic:
One day, before the coronavirus pandemic, a river of pedestrians — half manic, half clueless — was feeding onto the escalator at the West Fourth Street subway station during rush hour. Blocking the escalator entrance were people gazing at their phones. Once they finally stepped on, they planted themselves on the left. It was a mess.
You stand on the right; you pass on the left. This is the choreography of everyday life.
I found myself directing people where to stand and when to move. As the bottom half of the escalator started to organize itself, I noticed that something similar was happening toward the top. I recognized the voice up there: It belonged to Ori Flomin, a dancer, teacher and choreographer. We saw each other and giggled.
“Of course,” he said, “we are the ones arranging people in space.”
I started studying ballet at 12, and took ballet and jazz classes five nights a week in my 20s. I only stopped a few years ago thanks to my messed-up knees.
Dance, for fun or in a studio, has long been a way to stay in touch with my senses and sense of balance and rhythm and grace. I’ve never really understood people who “hate to dance” but I know there are many of them! Once you learn to parse a piece of music — a waltz or a mazurka, have your body remember allegro and adagio and what it should do in response — it’s a permanent muscle memory.
And understanding how your body moves within space — and especially in relationship to other bodies — is key to dance, even if all you ever do is take a dance class. You still have to navigate your spot at the barre or leaping and spinning across the floor. You swing your legs in grands battements, careful not to knock anyone while focused on staying strong, centered, elegant.
Spatial awareness is a very real quality we all need to cultivate right now in shared spaces to avoid endless transmission of COVID-19.
Heedless selfishness is now, we all know, lethal.
Those days are gone. Or soon will be; on April 1 — no joke! — New York governor Andrew Cuomo declared every New York City playground closed.
But the ambitious, driven, rushrushrush sort of people who live in New York City — a massively dense city to start with — are also used to being shoved and jostled, in the subway, in line-ups, pretty much anywhere.
So learning to literally keep your damn distance, every day, everywhere — to step out of an elevator with anyone else in it (a la Devil Wears Prada!) — is a new challenge.
Add to this the relentless American individualism that somehow insists each person’s own comfort and safety matters far more than anyone else’s…good luck!